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Grand Canyon National Park

Celebrate Christmas at Grand Canyon's Phantom Ranch

Late on December 24, as most dads were cursing assembly instructions or sipping one last nightcap, I was rodent-proofing our food bag at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. My wife, Jen, our three boys, and I had hiked down the South Kaibab Trail earlier that day, descending from snow-covered rim to sun-warmed canyon. At Bright Angel Campground, we hung tinsel on our tent, strolled under cottonwoods, and exchanged holiday greetings with other campers.

Normally, I avoid such busy spots, but what makes this place a dubious choice the rest of the year makes it perfect on Christmas. Want to bring family or friends who aren’t up to carrying a full pack? Mule service. We didn’t use it, but we did buy a cold beer at Phantom Ranch (the historic lodge also serves a holiday feast). In the evening, the kids joined a sing-along with a group of caroling rafters and delighted in gifts from our campground neighbors. So is anything missing from a Grand Canyon Christmas? Just one: last-minute trips to the store.

TRIP PLANNER

Do it Permits required ($10 plus $5/person/night). Pack instep crampons for the upper portions of the trail. Camp one night at Indian Gardens to break up the ascent. Infonps.gov/grca